It seems that many people we know have a membership to Sams Club. Friends, relatives, and mere acquaintances all casually mention their trips to that place. Earlier this year, I had a homeschool mom friend say she picked up a math curriculum book at a great price for her daughter. Emboldened, I asked another HS mom friend to pick up a “K” or 1st level math workbook for Child #2. She found a “complete curriculum” book which has been a huge hit with my “color, write, draw” etc child.
My spouse is the one who started asking questions. How much cheaper is it? How many cans in a flat? How is the selection? What is it really like? With the economic downturn, we wanted to explore a possible cost-saving option.
We were unable to get satisfactory answers from those who have been there, so we set a date to go take a look ourselves. After following correct procedures for our trial visit (we were guests of a current member), we embarked on our first foray, all four children in tow.
It wasn’t what I expected. This one seemed smaller than a normal (non-Super) Walmart. Higher ceilings, yes, but not as big as I expected. It reminded me of the warehouse of the manufacturer for whom I used to work except that it lacked the large dock doors. In selection, it reminded me of Alco (i.e., none).
– Sam’s only carried name brand labels. In many staples, we buy generics. Thus, there would be no savings or it would actually be more expensive to buy the same type of item. (Canned vegetables like corn & green beans or liquids like lemon juice and oil fall into this category.)
– Where we buy name brand of something (some canned fruit, Cheerios, tomato sauce, diapers), the price versus previous (recent) Wal-Mart trips was comparable – plus or minus only a couple of cents per item. Even diapers were less than fifty cents cheaper on a huge box. The one exception was on Bisquick. Sam’s has a five pound box vs. Wal-mart’s six pounder and when you adjust for that, Sam’s is cheaper by over a dollar.
– The bulk packaging (smaller size cans packed together) would be more convenient than a bunch of individual items when handling in the quantities we tend to buy.
– Sam’s often didn’t carry the usual size product we buy. One example is baked beans. They had them in smaller cans 18 oz(?) vs the 26 oz(?) we purchase. This wouldn’t make it a good buy for us as we would end up using two cans or ‘short’ everyone some in order to use the smaller can.
Overall, I wasn’t very impressed.Except for the fact that some of the items were bulk-packed together for easier handling, it wouldn’t be much of an advantage for us. It is a longer trip for us and prices for the items we would be purchasing were definitely in line with Wal-Mart (where we usually go).
We would still have to make a trip to Wal-Mart to fill in the gaps of the items we couldn’t get at Sam’s. Definite thumbs down on the value for us. Other people obviously have come to different conclusions for themselves. This is just my opinion based on our situation.